In Closed Session

There's a macabre joke going around that the east side of Long Beach experiences a crime wave when bicycles are being stolen, while a crime wave in the north, central or downtown parts of the city means people are being shot.

Still, there has been a spike in bicycle thefts everywhere. And for most, once a bike is gone, it's gone for good. Police seldom recover stolen bikes, and when they do, there's really no way to determine who owns the thing.

Why? Because most people don't bother to register their bicycles, let alone write down the serial number.

Oh, did I mention that the police have a hard time even proving that a bicycle has been stolen if it isn't registered?

Back in the day, it was fairly easy to get a bike license — a trip to the local fire station usually did the trick. It was a big deal for youngsters to get a license for the first grown-up bike. Heck, back in the mid-20th Century we even put little miniature license plates on our bikes.

But in Long Beach, the whole visit your friendly fire station thing ended in 2011. Actually, the city's entire bicycle registration program was dropped then.

Remember, that was in the middle of the Great Recession, and the bike licensing didn't pay its own way. So it was chopped.

That left bicycle owners with only the National Bike Registry as an option. People could pay a fee, then put their bike's make, model and serial number in that database.

Only one problem there. The LBPD doesn't have access to the National Bike Registry's database. (The city declined to pay the annual membership fee.)

There may be an answer. Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price, along with Daryl Supernaw, Dee Andrews and Roberto Uranga (Fourth, Sixth and Seventh districts, repectively) introduced a motion Tuesday to study whether an online registration program made sense.

Price (who admitted recently that her own bicycle had been stolen off her porch), said the success of the Go Long Beach app for people to register complaints and concerns prompted her to ask whether a hi-tech solution to bicycle registration made sense.

Once set up, an online bicycle registration system would cost the city little or nothing. It could be voluntary, and would rely on educating the public of its value to get them to participate.

And we just covered how getting a bicycle registered protects it, didn't we?

To be honest, it seems to make more sense to me to employ a heavy-duty locking system, or to put the thing away when you're home. I'm talking inside four walls, like a garage or, heaven forbid, the house.

Having the bike registered is a good backup, though. Think of it as the deadbolt above your doorknob lock, or at least that little chain thing that lets you open a door an inch or two. And it definitely would be a good tool for your friendly neighborhood patrol officer when he sees the guy riding one bike and wheeling another (or two) beside him.

This is a City Council and city management that has spent literally millions of dollars on bicycle lanes, routes and dedicated paths over the last several years — all while not supporting a bicycle registration system. Here's how Price summarizes the situation.

"Unchecked bike thefts undermine our city's commitment to being ’bike friendly,' and leave the Police Department with little recourse when they find stolen bikes. However, if the Police Department had access to bike serial numbers, descriptions, photographs and contact information for the owner, the would be able to proactively identify bikes as stolen and return them to their owners."

Mayor Robert Garcia was on the council when the whole bike-friendly movement began. He's now known as the hi-tech mayor, so this should be right in his wheelhouse.

It would be more fun to go down to the fire house again, but registering via computer would get the job done. The council unanimously approved the request for a feasibility study.

Let's see what you've got, Innovation Team.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

Load comments